The International Move Shipping Your Household Goods to Mexico

I'd pulled the trigger and was moving to Mexico. I'd soothed over my mother's concerns, informed my New York landlady, and rented an apartment in Mexico City.

Then I started looking around my old place. The library I'd accumulated over the years was absolutely emigrating. And I couldn't leave behind those 1500 vinyl LPs-they were part of an ongoing "art" project. Life without my gorgeous set of mismatched plates bought at the Salvation Army? You get the picture: I decided to bring it all with me. I presumed it was just a matter of hiring a mover and going, right? It wasn't the last time I'd be naïve about life in Mexico.

My first advice is to find a good mover. Every company, big and small, claims they do international moves, but if you can, find one that specializes in them: one company kept asking me where in New Mexico I was moving, indicating we were all in over our heads. I finally chose Delahaye Blue Ribbon, who partner with MyM in Mexico. For one, they'd moved a Mexican diplomat back home (with his vinyl records and mismatched plates, no doubt). I also liked that they warned me what could go wrong before I signed the contracts.

Note the endeavor is not cheap. In my experience, you start at $5000 USD, no matter how little you bring (my apartment was a studio), and a lot of people say 10K isn't unheard of for larger moves. But there is a break you can take advantage of: if you move your stuff by boat, you rent a standard shipping container, whether you fill it or not, and don't pay by weight. So though I'd planned to only bring indispensables, once I'd paid for the container, I had room for everything else-linens, pointless winter clothes, and several big pieces of furniture I really hated to sell-and I still barely filled a third of the container.

Next comes Mexican government paperwork (if your mover doesn't mention this to you, run scared). First, you must have an FM3 or FM2, and you must move your stuff within six months of receiving the document.

Similarly, you need a separate visa for the importation of personal goods, called importación de menaje de casa. The visa costs $127 USD and must be requested at the consulate that has jurisdiction over the place you're moving from (Mexican consular websites tell you what consulate corresponds to what part of the world). You need copies of your passport and Mexican visa-to be safe, arrive with two or three copies of each, including the blank pages (don't ask...). You also need four copies (plus original) of an inventory of every box, and furnishing you're shipping, in Spanish. This isn't as exhausting as it seems: just translate the manifest your moving company hands you at pick up. Entries such as "lamp" or "box: books" or "box: miscellaneous kitchen" were sufficient. The inventory should list your old and new addresses. Finally, you must note the serial numbers of all electronic equipment or major appliances you import. The consulate processes the visa within 48 hours, rubber-stamping that all is in order.

Your mover will want copies of the importation visa as well as copies of your FM visa and passport. Additionally, he or she needs three different letters for presentation to Mexican customs officials. In my case the mover had easily-personalized templates (another good sign). The letters are dazzlingly bureaucratic-your employer pledges to be responsible for your stuff if you abandon it, and you swear to import neither liquor (my mover said French clients tend to smuggle rather than give up wine collections), nor firearms, nor porn. It's a formality, but remember that should Mexican customs discover any irregularities, your entire haul will be impounded until matters can be satisfactorily arranged, which means fines, hefty unbudgeted storage costs, and lots of your time spent at entry points, since even high-dollar movers will leave you to sort it out alone. Full disclosure: I found a half-drunk pint of gin in a suitcase when I was unpacking-but my crime was inadvertent, I swear.

Movers did the rest. I provided the abovementioned letters to MyM here, they handled Veracruz (no irregularities) and brought it all to my door ten days later. Everyone, including the movers, was surprised at how quickly things went; the usual timing is about four weeks once you ship out. Finally, my compliments to the movers: not one thing I shipped was damaged (I could not believe it-I'd expected a container full of shreds, shards, and broken records) and the crew was hard working, efficient, and careful. They even sent over a rep in coat and tie over on delivery day to make sure I was entirely satisfied.

Michael Parker-Stainback is an editor, translator, and writer based in Mexico City. He can be reached at e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
Originally Posted on Inside Mexico -